Cross Quarter Day – Samhain
Sunset October 31 to Sunset November 1
In Pagan times the Sabbats (from the Greek “sabatu” meaning to rest) were festivals honoring the growth cycle of crops – planting, tending, harvesting and allowing the land to rest. They celebrated the path of the Sun from high in the sky and warm to low in the sky and cool – the seasons. Many Pagans saw time as one eternal whole. The god is born of the eternal goddess, dies, and is reborn. A life well lived was lived in harmony and rhythm with these cycles.
It is thought the Sabbats have been celebrated in many places and in various forms for at least 12,000 years. Some estimate much, much longer. In modern times there are still those who follow the old Pagan ways.
With the advent of Christianity and the brutal persecution of any non-Christians, the Pagans went into hiding which preserved the old ways. Even many Christian holy-days are based on these ancient Pagan rites.
Samhain – summer’s end (pronounced SAH-win or SOW-in) – is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the darker half of the year. It is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, which is nearly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is known to have pre-Christian roots. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. Herbs were gathered one last time and dried.
As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the veil between life and death grows thin and spirits or fairies could more easily come into our world.
In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints Day to November 1, while November 2 later became All Souls Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints/All Souls merged and helped to create the modern Halloween. Historians used the name Samhain to refer to Gaelic Halloween customs up until the 19th century.
Samhain is celebrated as the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico – the Day of the Dead – usually on November 1. Some churches fix November 7 as All Hallows Eve. Some fix November 11 as Martinmas – when the sun reaches the actual cross quarter day in Scorpio.
Since the latter 20th century, Celtic Pagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Some modern Pagans consider it the witch’s new year.
Astrologically, Samhain marks the rising of the Pleiades – the Seven Sisters – an open star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The Seven Sisters have several meanings in different cultures.
Samhain rituals include bonfires, healing, dancing, thanksgiving and honoring the dead. Food is set aside for ancestors and protective spirits and rituals honoring the dead take place. Spirits and souls of loved ones are said to have more power and ability to visit us.
This is also a time for personal reflection – seeing ourselves clearly and moving into our higher good.